One of the City Police Officers and I were talking and we decided that it’s a sad state of affairs when a church needs to worry about some nut job walking in and shooting people. But unless you’ve been living in a cave and have no association with the outside world (in which case, you’re not reading this), we know that it’s a very real world concern.

Why? Watch the news. It’s happened!

The Active Shooter is the worse case scenario for any security team. That includes churches, mosques, synagogues, schools, medical facilities, and such.

The rules for surviving an Active Shooter are simple. They are Run, Hide, and Fight.

RUN – The biggest thing you can do, and it doesn’t matter if we’re talking a church or a visit to Walgreens, is to know where the exits are. Instinctively, we should scan anywhere we enter and know how to get out. That way, if trouble develops you might stand a chance of getting out of the building. The rules say don’t grab a coat, your belongings, laptop, or anything else. Just get out of there.

Now this is where things get weird for security. Disabled individuals might need help getting out. During 911 evacuations of the World Trade Center buildings, several wheelchair confined individuals were placed in office chairs, and carried out that way. Other times you may need to do some other kind of carry. You need to be trained in the various means of doing this.

Be advised, it’s harder than it looks. In one combat test, I had to carry a soldier a hundred meters. He’s in full gear, I’m in full gear (full gear included a ruck sack, an M-60 machine gun, and two cans of ammo). I opted to do what’s called a Fireman’s Carry. I divided the load the best I could (having the sixty on one side), and got down on one knee. The soldier bent himself over, I got hold of him, and then I stood up. Thank God I did a lot of squats, ran, and biked a lot, because it took a lot of strength to stand up. Starting to move forward was interesting and on more than one occasion I thought for sure my knee was going to give out from under me. Moving him that 100 yards was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. All that to say it’s not easy and you need to train for it.

There’s also numerous buddy carries, some of which we’ll look at. Again, this takes practice, lots of it.

If we need to evac children, we need to be training for that. That means if we have people who watch the children, they need to know how to get out, where to go, and how to keep track of their charges.

We’ll talk about carries at a latter date. They’re a subject  onto themselves. There are a number of YouTube videos out there, but as I pointed out, you have to be able to do them. They do require practice and strength.

Once you’re clear, call 911. Chances are someone already has, but that someone who makes the first call just might be you. Tell them what you know such as:

  • The number of shooters
  • Description of shooter
  • Where you last saw him or her (floor, rough location)
  • Type of weapon (assuming you know anything about them)
  • Don’t invent things. If all you heard was shots and screams, say so. If you don’t know, don’t make it up.

Stop people who don’t know what’s going on from entering the building.

HIDE – Sometimes running is the worst option. It might be as simple as you can’t get out without being seen, or as bad as there’s no where to run to. In that case, HIDE.

Office buildings offer plenty of places to do just that. Conference rooms are perfect, so are bathrooms. Big thing. Make sure the door can’t be opened. Lock the door and, if you can, block it. Then get low and stay quiet. Murphy’s  law dictates your cellphone will ring during all this. Turn it down or off.

One of the main issues here however is it might drive your security options. In a church sanctuary, there are few places to run. The idea at that point is to deny the shooter entry into the sanctuary if a church, classrooms if a school, and rooms if a health care facility.

In our case we have six entrances into the sanctuary. Before services, security always makes sure two of these are secured. We also check and make sure stage entries are secured. We do this by having a prayer room with key control adjacent to the stage. This gives the pastors and praise and worship team access to that area, but we still control it.

We also have regular doors with entry bars on each door. Doors are kept locked, but to provide easy ingress and exit, we keep the bars down with Velcro straps. These straps can be removed in a second by the ushers. This will allow the restraining bar to pop up, and lock the door from the inside. Note, this is purely to buy time. We have a number of people who do concealed carry in the different services, and we’ve trained to deploy to protect as well as we can. Should the shooter get in, he’ll discover he just stepped into a hornet’s nest.

The ushers will then push everyone as far forward as they can, and possibly out of the building. The idea is to keep people low since pews and chairs will soak up bullets if the shooter decides to try to shoot through the walls of doors.

Other ministries will also secure doors, pull curtains, whatever it takes to isolate their area. The day care centers have always been a nightmare for us and while there are exit doors (the sitters have been told to exit with their charges if they can do so safely and get out of the area). If not, there are windows coverings that can be dropped quickly, and there’s a large horizontal book rack in each room. The bookshelf is backed with a quarter inch steel plates, and that in turn is covered with half inch plywood. Books are kept on the shelf to act as extra armor. Worse case scenario would allow a shooter to take refugees behind the shelf unit. We tested this arrangement and it stood up well against rounds from an AR-15 and AK-47, as well as rounds from 9mm, .357, and .44 magnum pistols.

FIGHT – Worse case scenario, the cop we hire at each service, the security team, and greeters will be write offs. But in a worse case scenario, you can’t run, you can’t hide, you’ve two choices, fight and possibly die, or do nothing and die. You need to ask yourself one question. Is your life or the lives of those around you worth fighting for?

It will make your response a lot easier if you have an answer for that.

One of the biggest things I run into is people who might not fight for their lives because of religious beliefs. One person actually quoted Luke 6:29 (Turning the other cheek) to say we’re not supposed to fight back. I quoted Ezekiel 33:7 which states if I see the sword coming and do nothing about it, then I’m guilty of the blood shed. That said, I’d rather show up in Heaven having lost the fight than never have tried to save my friends and family.

Like I said, make up your mind beforehand on that issue. That’s probably why we like former or current emergency responders (Police, Fire, EMS), or military and preferably Infantry, Cav, and such. We also like MPs, SPs, and such (for obvious reasons). Most of us have already answered that question, and the answer to if we’d fight back is not only yes, but hell yes.

We’ll talk about improvised weapons at a later date. It would surprise you that many are within easy reach at any given time.

A number of our team have a concealed weapons permit, and we urge them to carry. We don’t like open carry though the person would be within their rights to do so. The reason for it is the sight of a weapon in a church setting can unnerve people, and rightfully so.

We do mandate the calibers. Our security teams carry 9mms, .380s, or .38s. We also mandate the bullets. No ball ammo here. We use the same ammo the Air Marshall’s use. It costs a little more, but in the event of a miss, it’s not going to go through a wall and other people.

Our people also have to demonstrate they can engage a target, and we oftentimes go out and do target practice alongside the police. We use their standards for shooting and grading. If you can’t pass, you don’t carry. We also keep records of training on every security officer.

Next time, we talk about the common every day guy or gal, and making that decision to fight. We’ll look at improvised weapons, responsibilities, and most importantly, laws.